Malaysian PM seeks king’s nod to declare state of emergency

Malaysia's Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin wearing a protective mask arrives at a mosque for prayers, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Putrajaya, Malaysia

Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin met the king on Friday to ask him to declare a state of emergency, two sources with direct knowledge of the matter said – a move that opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim denounced as an attempt to cling to power.

The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorised to speak to the media, did not give the reason for the request.

The proposed emergency would include the suspension of parliament, which is due to reconvene in November, but spare the public additional restrictions beyond the coronavirus curbs currently in place, one of the sources said. The sources did not disclose the full range of measures that Muhyiddin would seek to implement.

Muhyiddin, who came to power in March with only a two-seat majority, has been under pressure since Anwar’s declaration last month that he had enough votes in parliament to oust the premier. A resurgence in coronavirus cases has also added to Muhyiddin’s troubles.

The government is scheduled to propose its 2021 budget on Nov. 6, and there have been questions over whether it can muster a majority in parliament for that.

Defeat on the budget would count as a vote of no-confidence in Muhyiddin and could trigger an election. Emergency rule might mean the budget would not be put to a vote at that time.


Responding to reports of Muhyiddin’s move, Anwar said: “We have a government which lacks legitimacy and which knows it would fail to demonstrate majority support in parliament, and is using the COVID-19 crisis as an excuse to justify its abuse of power.”

Under the constitution, the king can declare a state of emergency if he is satisfied there is a threat to national security, the economy or public order. Malaysia last declared a national emergency in 1969, after civil unrest and race riots.

The executive would gain powers to make rules and approve the expenditure necessary to ensure public security.

The state news agency Bernama said Muhyiddin had met with King Al-Sultan Abdullah on Friday afternoon.

Sivamurugan Pandian, a political analyst from Malaysian Science University, said the king could choose to consult with other royal houses before making a decision on the emergency.

The Council of Rulers, which groups the heads of Malaysia’s nine royal houses, has the power to withhold consent from any law and deliberate on questions of national policy.

Muhyiddin’s office and the palace did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the meeting. The prime minister’s office said there would be no announcement on Friday.

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